Donor Countries Slammed for Quality of Food Aid

Children eat food donated by the World Food Program. Medecins Sans Frontieres urges donors to stop supplying nutritionally substandard food to developing countries. Photo by: Manoocher Deghati / IRIN

Top food aid donors need to rethink their policies and stop supplying or financing the distribution of nutritionally substandard food items to developing countries, Medecins Sans Frontieres has urged.

MSF explained that the food aid provided by the U.S., Canada, the European Union, Japan and other donor countries usually do not “meet international standards for the nutritional needs of children under two years of age.” It added that this practice continues despite the presence of conclusive scientific evidence showing the ineffectiveness of such food items in reducing childhood malnutrition.

“Despite an international consensus on the most appropriate nutritional composition of foods for malnourished children, donor countries continue to subsidise and supply a one-size fits all product that we know fails to meet this standard and to decrease the risk of death due to malnutrition,”  Dr. Susan Shepherd, nutrition adviser at MSF, said in a statement.

Dr. Unni Karunakara, president of MSF International, added that the “double standard” in food aid supply needs to stop.

“Foods we would never give our own children are being sent overseas as food aid to the most vulnerable children in malnutrition hotspots in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia,” Karunakara explained.

In a bid to further their campaign, MSF is sending letters to the leaders of top food aid donors and is sponsoring a petition that will be presented to G-8 leaders at their 2011 summit in France.

“We urge you to implement reforms so that addressing the needs of malnourished children is what drives the U.S. government’s international food assistance policy,” Sophie Delaunay, executive director of MSF U.S., said in an open letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah.

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.